Talking To Children About Death Without Religion

“A coffin? Like, what vampires live in?”

My six-year-old asks, as he watches his father and five other pall bearers remove a wooden casket from the funeral home vehicle.

“Are there spiders and webs in it? Or not yet?” I replied with a simple no. My four year old pipes in… “And now that he’s dead, where does he go? Does he turn into a monster now?”

Sigh.

Times like this are when I desperately wish for a strongly knitted faith to fall back on. Then the answers to these innocent, humorous questions are provided for you. Wrapped up with a nice little bow. Talking to children about death and having the answers would be nice.

I look to my many friends of Christian faith who answer these questions with confidence. They simply tell their children the answers of life, death and the beyond.

Not me.

Talking to children about death is hard.

I am at a loss for words in these situations. Because I don’t know what happens and cannot with a clear conscience, lie to my children to give them an answer.

At least today, I am able to confidently say there are no vampires, monsters, or spiders involved in this funeral service. So, there’s that.

My husband and I do not participate in organized religion.

This Catholic funeral had been the very first exposure to a church for our two young children. We found ourselves at a loss for words. Many times.

These questions were not of the simple variety.

“Why is that guy hanging off a T?” pops out of my four-year-old’s mouth in front of church members. My laughter turned to embarrassment, as I see he is pointing to Jesus crucified on the cross.

Imagine that confusing sight as seen through the eyes of a child.

Of course the ever-pending motherly guilt that rears its ugly head during these moments. How have you managed to discuss so many other topics and handled them with confidence and grace?

talking to children about death | liesaboutparenting.com

The concept of infinity. How mothers don’t have wieners. How legally you now CAN marry your best friend who is also a boy (and your father and I will support you.)

Why is it so difficult to talk about an event that occurs 100% percent of the time? To every single person? Death! And better yet, have a respectable explanation?

Talking to children about death is necessary.

I feel as a parent it is okay to not have all the answers. I would even argue that it’s essential to admit that to your children. We are only human after all. It is reasonable to say “I do not know…”

Be confident in your uncertainty.

This can be a teachable moment. The experience gives cause to explore the different beliefs that exist in this world.

There are so many. Talking to children about death is one of them. Who are we to decide which one a child will connect with the most? Maybe they prefer to imagine reincarnation over heaven? Maybe they think we just fade to dust and they are ok with that. I’m leaving it up to them.

Like I said, I don’t have the answers this time. And I’m ok with that.

I’m comfortable giving my children the power to make their own decisions in their own time. After all, there is no age requirement dictating when a person is able to have an opinion about death.

Children are so perfect. They are much closer to the beginning of the life conundrum than we are. Maybe their innocence better equips them to understand this complicated process. After all, I admit in the whole scheme of life and death, their guess is as good as mine.

(However, I fully stand by the fact there will not be monsters, nor vampires.)

Jamie Fuller
 

Jamie is the proud mother of two seemingly functional boys, the wife of an educator who willing comes home to chaos daily, and the owner of an smelly yet adorable mutt who consistently wins the title of "Best Behavior" in the home. She is also an Intensive Care RN, a profession which challenges and humbles her as well as gives precious insight to life, the power of love, and the necessity of filling your days with friends and family.

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